Greetings favored ones! The Lord is with you!
This is how the angel begins his famous conversation with Mary. And after this – he tells her a whole host of impossible things. Take a minute – count the laundry list of impossible things that the angel tells Mary in the next 4-5 minutes of her life. There’s a lot of them – isn’t there?
First of all – there’s an angel standing in her room – telling her that she has found favor with God. Then there’s the – you will conceive – and bear a son – bit. And he will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. Wow.
Mary, bless her, has the wherewithal to question the angel a bit. More perhaps than any of us would have been able to do. I think I’d still be stuck on the angel bit. But brave Mary – says – how can this be possible? And then – another list of impossible sounding things. The Holy Spirit will overshadow you. Your child will be the son of God! Oh – and your cousin – who is far too old to have children – she’s pregnant, too! Good news abounds. Or is it good news?
Mary’s next response is so important. Here I am, the servant of the Lord.
Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a moment. You’ve just been interrupted by an angel. An actual angel. And he has told you impossible – remarkable things. Things that warm the hearts of the faithful – to be sure. But things that put her very life at risk. A pregnant, unmarried woman – would have risked being stoned every time she was out in public. Her betrothed could have asked for it. Her father could have asked for it. Or the people in the streets could have just taken it upon themselves. Even if she survived – an unmarried woman with a child had no prospects. No chance to have a respectable job. Or a nice home.
Or even probably enough food for them to eat. She would never be married.
She would never have the life that she could have had before.
And in this moment – she has no idea how things are going to go for her. She knows all of this. And she knows that there is an angel standing in her room telling her impossible things. How could she possibly begin to wrap her head around them? And yet – she responds so bravely. She questions for a minute. But then she just accepts the will of God. No matter the cost. No matter the risk. No matter how scary and impossible it might have seemed.
Here I am, the servant of the Lord.
Think back – if you will – to the times in your life when you’ve been awakened from your sleep. It may not have been an angel that awoke you. But think about the times when you woke up – upset. About something. It could have been money trouble – or a relationship – or a sick child. We all have those times when our sleep is interrupted – And we all know what it feels like to have our stomachs church – When we find ourselves in the midst of situations that feel impossible. How will we pay the bills this month? How will we get out of this mess? How will we recover from this? Whatever it is. Remember the moments in your life when you were in something that felt impossible to get out of – to clean up – to let go of. Perhaps you’re even in the midst of something like that right now. Something – that you know the only way to be free of it – is just to get through it. But that seems impossible.
And yet in Mary’s faithfulness – in her willingness to submit to the will of God – To give up all that she might have conjured up on her own – as a dream for the future – And instead to take on God’s dream for her life – She, not only lived her own life fully – But her faithfulness brought a great gift into the world –
The greatest, actually – The gift of a child who changed everything. The gift of a Messiah – through whom all things are possible.
And yet. Here you are. Counting the impossible things in the Gospel today that God brought Mary through. Perhaps counting the impossible things that God has brought you through. God sees us through the impossible – time and time again. Sometimes it hurts more than others. Sometimes we feel we’ve lost more than others. But time and time again – God brings us through the impossible. Even through death – and into the impossibility of eternal life.
The trick about this passage – is that so many folks want to use this passage to say – I can do anything I want with God! Because God is with me – all things are possible! I can fly! Or I can be rich! Or I can treat people however I want! But that is not at all what this Gospel tells us. This Gospel tells us that with God all things are possible – because God’s will is always, always done. God’s will always comes to pass. No matter how much we stand in the way. No matter how much we drag our feet. No matter how much we believe it to be impossible. God’s will is always done.
And with God – nothing is impossible – if it is God’s will – God’s dream.
Last week – we gathered to talk a bit about the future of this place. To talk about where we are at the present moment. And begin dreaming about where we might be going. If you weren’t there – we missed you – and you missed something really special. It was an important moment in our lives together. One that frees us up just a little bit more from the past – so that we can begin to discern God’s dream for us. For us, too – not only in our lives – but in the life of this place – nothing is impossible with God. God has a dream for you – and a dream for this place. And if we will submit to this dream – No matter how impossible it seems – Nothing will be impossible.
And through us – if we submit to God’s dream – We, too, will bring gifts into the world that will change peoples’ lives because like Mary – When we submit to God’s dream – We become the bearers not only of the good news – But the bearers of Christ himself.
Nothing is impossible for us – if we are willing to live with God’s dream within us. If we are willing to let God dream up for us something more wonderful than we could dream up for ourselves. We are invited, like Mary, to be the servants of the Lord. And to bring something new into the world – made of our faithfulness – and our willingness to serve God’s dream – and not our own.
So look back over your lives. Take the long-view. And see God’s hand at work.
See God bringing you through that which was impossible. Perhaps not as unscathed as you’d like. Perhaps not in quite the way you’d have dreamed – But know that God has made the impossible – quite possible. And that God has brought you through it in order to create something new in the world –
So that you might help make the impossible – quite possible for others.
Here we are, the servants of the Lord. Amen.